Border force strikes set to usher in Christmas delays at air and sea ports

Thu 8 Dec 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

UK Border force strike

UK airports and ports are set to face disruption in the lead up to Christmas as Border Force staff are the latest to join workers striking for better pay and conditions.

Members of the PCS union employed by the Home Office on passport control will take action at Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow airports on December 23, 24, 25, 26 28, 29 and 30 and 31.

Members will also strike at the port of Newhaven in Sussex on the same dates, the PCS announced.

Staff are seeking a 10% pay rise as well as assurances on job security, pensions and redundancy terms, according to the Independent.

Call out the army

The army is training more than 500 military personnel soldiers to replace the Border Force officers who walk out over the winter.

The Times reports that airlines are being told to cancel up to 30% of flights on strike days to prevent chaos at arrivals as airports are gearing up for their busiest Christmas in three years, with predictions that many would exceed the levels of traffic in 2019 given the pent-up demand after the pandemic.

In a letter to aviation bosses Phil Douglas, director general of the Border Force, warned of delays as the “contingency workforce will not be able to operate with the same efficiency as our permanent workforce”.

Government plans

Reuters reports immigration minister Robert Jenrick’s comments that passengers should be prepared for severely disruption but said that the government is “working closely with all UK ports and airports and have robust plans in place to minimise any delays if strike action goes ahead”.

However, the Loadstar reports that road freight services in and out of the UK will likely face disruption from the industrial action, bringing movements to a standstill in the run-up to Christmas.

As well as union members at Newhaven port, staff at the Highways Agency and RMT workers are set to coordinate action on strike dates, the Guardian reports.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union urged the government to come forward with a new deal for its members after ministers refused to increase a 2% pay offer.

‘Opening shots’

He warned that it was only the “opening shots” of the dispute – suggesting that immigration staff at the Port of Dover could also walk out in the weeks ahead.

As well as affection passenger travel, action by border staff threatens to create disruption at ports in the lead-up to the crucial Christmas trading period, as previously covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update.

The ISU union – which represents UK Border Force, immigration enforcement and visa officers – is also threatening strike action over an 8% pay claim, after rejecting a 3% offer from the Home Office.

Mark Gribbin, the ISU’s general secretary, said strikes would be targeted at border ports, which are key to the importing of Christmas goods and food supplies.

Strikes incoming

With December set to be the heavily affected by industrial action, Politico and the Telegraph both have run downs of who is striking and when. The main disputes are:

  • Royal Mail workers have 10 days of strikes planned
  • Nationwide rail strikes are planned from 13-14 Dec, with regional strikes action also taking place this month
  • NHS – nurses plan to walk out at 52 hospital trusts. Ambulance staff are also set to walk out
  • National Highways staff strike in the North and Yorkshire. London, and South East staff strike on 22 December
  • Eurostar security staff strike on 16 December
  • Heathrow baggage staff handlers strike for 72 hours from 16 December
  • StageCoach North East bus staff strike on 23 December
  • Border Force strike on 23 December
  • Driving instructors are due to strike in December and January